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Sambo : the rise & demise of an American jester

Boskin, Joseph.

New York : Oxford University Press, 1986.

ix, 252 p. [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.

Before the tumultuous events of the 1960's ended his long life, "Sambo" prevailed in American culture as the cheerful and comical entertainer. Sambo was the stereotypical image of the black male which developed during the Colonial period, extended into all regions and classes, and pervaded all levels of the popular culture for over two centuries, so much so that he could be regarded as the first humorous icon.
As Joseph Boskin notes, virtually all societies conceived of their slaves in servile terms, but in the North American hemisphere, the black slave came to be seen as both a worker and entertainer. Why this came to pass is bound up with white perceptions of the black male as a laborer possessing a buguiling style. Whites were fascinated by black movement: the gait, music, language, and especially the laugh. Sambo was to be found everywhere in American society: in circuses and minstrel shows, in comic strips and novels, in children's stories, in advertisements and illustrations, in films and slides, in magazines and newspapers, in postcards and greeting cards, and in knick-knacks found throughout the house. Whatever the variation of his image, the central element was always humor--Sambo was conceived as the initiator and butt of laughter.
Boskin shows how the stereotype began to unravel in the 1930's with several radio series, specifically the Amos 'n' Andy and Jack Benny shows. The relationship between Benny and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson--the first of the odd couples inelectronic media--particularly undercut and altered the Sambo image as Rochester gradually achieved an aggressive stance with his "boss" and often reversed roles with him in a curious way. Finally, the democratic thrust of World War II, coupled with the black efforts to terminate Jim Crow practices and the rise of prominent black comedians on the national level in the 1960's, laid Sambo to rest.
About the Author:
Joseph Boskin is Professor of History and Afro-American Studies and Director of the Urban Studies and Public Policy Program at Boston University. His previous books include Into Slavery and Humor and Social Change in the Twentieth Century.


Non-fiction - JH & HSNon-fiction - JH & HS

This item is missing


0195040740 (alk. paper)

LC Call No:

E169.1 .B762 1986

Dewey Class No:

306/.484/08996073 19


Boskin, Joseph.


Sambo : the rise & demise of an American jester / Joseph Boskin.


New York : Oxford University Press, 1986.


ix, 252 p. [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.


Includes index.


Bibliography: p. 225-243.


Stereotype (Psychology)--United States.


Fools and jesters--United States.


Afro-Americans in the performing arts.


Afro-American entertainers--Biography.


Sambo (Fictitious character)

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035 System Ctrl No   $a System control number  86008451 //r89
043 GAC   $a Geographic area code  n-us---
050 LC Call No 0   $a Classification number  E169.1
    $b Item number  .B762 1986
082 Dewey Class No 0   $a Classification number  306/.484/08996073
    $2 Edition number  19
100 ME:PersonalName 10  $a Personal name  Boskin, Joseph.
245 Title 10  $a Title  Sambo :
    $b Remainder of title  the rise & demise of an American jester /
    $c Statement of responsibility  Joseph Boskin.
260 PublicationInfo 0   $a Place of publication, dist.  New York :
    $b Name of publisher, dist, etc  Oxford University Press,
    $c Date of publication, dist, etc  1986.
300 Physical Desc   $a Extent  ix, 252 p. [8] p. of plates :
    $b Other physical details  ill. ;
    $c Dimensions  23 cm.
500 General Note   $a General note  Includes index.
504 BibliogrphyNote   $a Bibliography, etc. note  Bibliography: p. 225-243.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Stereotype (Psychology)
    $z Geographic subdivision  United States.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Fools and jesters
    $z Geographic subdivision  United States.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Afro-Americans in the performing arts.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Afro-American entertainers
    $x General subdivision  Biography.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Sambo (Fictitious character)
651 Subj:Geog $a Geographic name  United States
    $x General subdivision  Race relations.
651 Subj:Geog $a Geographic name  United States
    $x General subdivision  Popular culture.
740 AE:DiffTitle 01  $a Different title  Sambo : the rise and demise of an American jester.
852 Holdings   $h Classification part  306 Bos
    $p Barcode  10425
    $a Location  PS
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